Random acts

A review

Where: The Orange Peel parking lot

When: Friday, March 26

“Aren’t you going to stay with us all night?” asked the man with the battered thermos. He’d been sitting outside The Orange Peel for Bob Dylan tickets since 10 p.m., and he was already late in line. At least three dozen people were ahead of him; several had gotten there as early as 5 p.m.

I told him I thought I’d go home and get some sleep instead — this while draining the final dregs from my paper coffee cup.

“What? You don’t want to see what happens out here tonight?” the man pressed. “It could get really crazy, you know, around 4:20.”

A few people in the makeshift encampment giggled.

“You can’t leave until you’ve heard just a few more songs,” said a man bundled up in a sleeping bag. He pointed to Telisha Williams and her husband, Doug, who’d been singing a variety of Dylan songs and other folk selections most of the night. I gave in.

Playing under the name No Evil, the Williamses are an established act in their hometown of Lawrenceville, Va. Their Dylan renditions were light and fun, with breathy vocals and a campfire style that may have been provoked as much by the open-air setting as by intention. During the loose interviews I’d conducted with several ticket stalkers, almost all had said the folk duo was so far the best part of their night.

Even the country-music-loving trio of high-school-age boys a little further down the line begrudgingly admitted to enjoying the pair’s songs. Of course, they wouldn’t have been there on their own.

“We’re only in line because our boss is paying us $50 each to wait [here] for these tickets,” confessed one, who asked me not to use his name (he’d lied to his parents; they thought he was spending the night sleeping on a mountainside, not a sidewalk).

Still, it wasn’t a bad night for urban camping. I wanted to be more impressed by the group’s hardcore devotion, but really, they were only “braving” mild spring weather and pleasant company.

Such lines, of course, became a rarity with the advent of online ticket sales. And so the whole notion — waiting all day and night for the privilege of buying a $65 ticket — now seems almost quaint. Still, the current show marks a departure of sorts: Most of the assembled fans had only seen Dylan play in arenas; experiencing him in a club setting will be almost as good as getting a personal concert.

Bearing that in mind, I left the camaraderie of the line to make my way home.

When I arrived back there early the next morning, the line had grown, tracing up Biltmore Avenue and around the corner to Aston Street. It had swelled from a loose, sprawling thing to something far more territorial. The overall mood, though, was still jovial. Those tired eyes from the night before were now bleary in anticipation — of getting both tickets and a good day’s rest.

The sale started promptly at 10 a.m. Saturday, exactly according to schedule, and as word spread down the line, the excitement became tangible. People began to bid goodbye to new friends, parting with, “See you at the show.”

Tickets were gone in 90 minutes, leaving at least 40 people to find their way back to their cars empty-handed. Thankfully, they expressed no anger. No rioting or harsh words arose, just moans of acceptance.

They’d only arrived that morning, after all. Who did they think they were?

[Bob Dylan plays The Orange Peel on Friday, April 9. The show is, of course, sold out.]

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